Well, I guess the new Man of Steel movie was pretty good. Or so I’ve heard. Unfortunately I don’t get out to the movies very often these days. It’s something I doubt I’ll be able to remedy any time soon as I’m about to double up on my no time for movie watchingness. It’s a rough life.
Long before MoS came out the net was a flutter with discussions about Superman and how they were going to make him cool again. They had their gritty Batman, true, but Batman is just one guy to be taking on The Avengers (as a team and as individuals), the X-Men, and Spiderman.
Just what was Warner going to do to make Supes compelling? I haven’t seen the movie so I’m not sure but from the looks of it, I guess they came up with “angsty.” And it’s a big hit and everyone seems happy with it all so I suppose that’s that.
Except it’s not that. What’s going to happen is that they’re going to have to find a way to keep him interesting now to keep the franchise going and to do that someone is going to have to get creative. And what’s the best way to develop a godlike character that’s completely invincible and has an incorruptible morality?
The answer is probably not another 30 minutes of origin story. Seriously people. If you don’t know who Superman is then please just look him up on your phone. Why are you even at a Superman movie if you don’t know who he is?
There. Now we can get down to business.
How do we make Superman awesome? Simple. Kill the Batman.
Wait. No, that’s not it. I confused my note cards. The answer is look to his past and see what made him awesome to begin with.
I’ve been watching the old Fliescher cartoons from the 40’s. At that point Superman had only been around a little while and his character was still in development. Did you know that originally, Superman didn’t fly? Ever stop to wonder what’s impressive about being able to “leap tall buildings in a single bound” if you can fly? Nope. He used to leap from place to place. There’s an episode where some bad guys hit him with tear gas and he coughs and sputters, but fights through. Lasers knock him down. He has weaknesses that aren’t a rock. He is super but he’s not SUPER!!! And that’s what makes it interesting: it’s possible that he could actually lose.
Some of you might be thinking that to take away or diminish some of Superman’s powers would be untrue to the character and that it would be some kind of sacrilege. That’s not true at all. Watch those cartoons. In some of the earlier ones, he can’t fly. Later he can. He gets stronger. He gets faster. He’s evolving even as he punches the bejeesus out of all the bad things. It makes for a good story.
Plus, it totally worked for Batman.
Batman wasn’t rebooted into angst and grit. He was born that way. Early on, Batman was dark and ruthless. From Wikipedia: The first Batman story, “The Case of the Chemical Syndicate,” was published in Detective Comics #27 (May 1939). Finger said, “Batman was originally written in the style of the pulps,” and this influence was evident with Batman showing little remorse over killing or maiming criminals.
The character of Batman softened over the years for various reasons. But when they took him back to his roots, he became more popular than ever. They need to do the same with Superman. No, not make him dark and gritty. Make him awesome and learning how to be more awesome with practice. Let him discover new powers when he’s under pressure. Let his potential sacrifices mean something. It’s not as compelling when your character can’t lose, worse when he knows it.
That’s it. Just roll back the clock and let Clark beat up on some unfrozen dinosaurs and you can have all of my money. Also, Lois isn’t blond. Please stop that.